What Is The Difference Between “Clean Air System” And “Dirty Air System”?

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Vacuum cleaner manufacturing executives were questioned about using the ‘clean air’ and ‘dirty air’ terminology to describe the machines that they sell in the marketplace.

Most vacuum cleaner companies do not use this terminology in their advertising because both systems can work equally well and the terminology may be misinterpreted by the consumer.

Manufacturers may inform retailers that want to know about the differences in each type of vacuum cleaner.

As consumers have become increasingly health conscious, vacuum cleaner manufacturers and retailers have promoted the role vacs can play in keeping homes cleaner and by extension healthier.

In marketing to promote vacuum cleaners’ abilities to remove dirt and allergens from the home, the terms “clean air” and “dirty air,” which historically were used by engineers to describe the path of air within a vacuum cleaner, have reemerged to describe two different types of vacuum cleaner systems.

Some systems use suction systems that channel dirt around the motor and fan. These units, often with sealed vac bodies and microfiltration bags have been dubbed–in the vernacular of marketing–“clean air” units.

Other systems, direct suction units that draw air directly into the vac through the fan and into the vac bag, have been labeled “dirty air” units.

Manufacturers of the latter contend that these units, with sealed motors, microfiltration bags and seals for the vac body, operate as clearly as “clean air” units. With their direct suction, makers say, these units remove dirt more effectively.

Since most retailers carry both types of units, and since the consumer awareness in the vacuum cleaner industry is driven largely by manufacturer advertising, HFN has asked executives at leading vacuum cleaner manufacturers how manufacturers and retailers can work together to promote vacuum cleaner technologies, such as “clean air” systems, without undermining the sales potential of other lines.

James Bazet President Ryobi Motor Products Floor care division

As an industry, when we talk in terms of “clean air” versus “dirty air,” we become our own worst enemy. In our marketing zest to promote these types of technology we, as an industry, are guilty of a certain overkill, in that we convince the consumer that their choice is between clean air or dirty air and in truth, that is not the case.

At Ryobi, we take the position that first and foremost the consumer is interested in removing dirt from their carpet.

Our research has shown us that the consumer, for the most part, doesn’t really understand nor care about the difference between a bypass or a through-the-fan system. What they want is a machine that does a good job of cleaning.

A through-the-fan system, done properly, with microfiltration bags and a properly sealed motor and body, provides the consumer what they want, at a price they are willing to pay.

Gilbert Dorsey President The Eureka Co.

Eureka offers both clean air and direct air vacuum cleaners under the strategy of giving customers a choice and, by so doing, giving customers what they want. Clean air systems are not advanced technology.

Clean air systems are canister-principle vacuum cleaners and the canister Principle has been used both in canisters and upright vacuum cleaners for more than 50 years.

Rick Farone Director of product marketing and development Royal Appliance Co.

We refer to the two systems as direct air and by-pass, with the direct air being the “dirty air” and the bypass being the “clean air” systems. To us direct air means that debris and dirt that is picked up, is pulled into the fan and the fan slings it up and into the bag.

With the bypass system, dirt and debris are drawn through to the bag without ever hitting the fan. Since no debris makes contact with the fan, you avoid fan damage.

The difference between these two technologies has become more of an issue over the last three to four years as manufacturers started putting tools on uprights and consumers started picking up things that they haven’t picked up in the past.

I don’t believe that one cleans better than the other. The technology has improved on bypass systems. We offer both.

In terms of “clean air” versus “dirty air,” we don’t refer to either one by those terms out in the marketplace. With our bypass systems, we refer to it as having “motor guard” so the consumer knows they can avoid doing damage to their fan.

Brian Girdlestone President The Hoover Co.

The prime reason a consumer purchases an upright vacuum cleaner is to extract dirt from a carpet. The most effective method on the market today achieves this by a direct air system (ASTM tests confirm this.)

The words “clean air” vacuuming instead of “indirect air” vacuuming infer to the consumer “air quality.” This is totally misleading.

The best way for manufacturers and retailers to work together in promoting the different vacuum cleaner technologies is to first stop using terminology that is not applicable to the consumer. Rather than focusing on the cleaner’s design, we should all focus on the cleaner’s benefits to the consumer.

Research would show that consumers don’t really care about the technical elements of a vacuum cleaner. They don’t have time or desire to become a floor care engineer.

What they want to know are such things as which one cleans best, has the best tool suction, the most tools, will last the longest, has easy bag and belt change and the best filtration.

The list goes on, but the list includes benefits, qualities and levels of performance. It generally does not include engineering designs or cleaner technologies.

It’s the responsibility of each manufacturer to explain vac designs to those retailers who “want” to know.

Beyond that, the retailer (with the assistance of the manufacturer) should focus consumer advertising messages on product features, benefits and performance.

Bruce Gold President White Westinghouse Floor care products

There are some of us that manufacture what are direct air systems. I believe the terms “clean air” and “dirty air” are misnomers and should not be used in advertising either of the products.

The difference between the two is, put simply, in a direct air system the material picked up by the vac goes directly into a fan, which then whirls it up and into the bag. A bypass system takes the dirt through a funnel and bypasses the motor, then bringing it into the bag.

The question has always been, which system cleans better, since the primary reason a customer buys a vac is to clean their carpet.

The testing that I have seen, and I believe other manufacturers are now handling out to dealers, would indicate that direct air systems do a better job of cleaning carpet than bypass systems. Therefore, at this time we are staying with direct air only.

The obvious advantage to a bypass system is one of maintenance. If the consumer picks up a hard object, which might normally damage the fan or motor, it will bypass the motor and therefore not damage it. But that doesn’t mean that it cleans better. As a result, we will continue to advertise direct air systems only.

Ann Howard General manager, marketing Sharp Electronics Appliance division

At Sharp we prefer to use the term “motor bypass” in describing our vacuum cleaners. We believe that, to the consumer “clean air” means much more than simply the design of the suction system.

“Clean air” encompasses the various filters, filtration of the bag and the hard shell design. As with any new technology that provides an improvement over existing products, it is important to stress features and benefits.

We believe the motor bypass system provides consumers with demonstrable benefits. The difficulty arises in that some people, in explaining the two technologies, have chosen to use the terms “clean air” and “dirty air.” Thus, the problem becomes one of terminology.

It is our position that by explaining to consumers that motor bypass systems provide recognizable benefits, without reference to negative terminology such as implied by the term “dirty air,” consumers can be educated to the point that when they are looking to make a vac purchase, they will be willing to step up to units that offer the “feature” of motor by pass design.

This “feature” in turn provides the “benefit” of preventing damage to the motor fan by channeling dirt and debris around, rather than through, the motor.

Marc O’Shima Vice president Matsushita Appliance Corp. Manufacturer of Panasonic brand vacs

No product is forever. Consumer preferences are reflected by their purchases and through manufactures’ market research.

As manufacturers and retailers, we must analyze the information from purchases and the information compiled from market research to determine trends which indicate future customer needs.

Manufacturers must develop technology to meet these needs and work closely with retailers to enable them to communicate and sell the benefits of the latest technology to consumers.

With the consumers’ purchase of products which feature this new technology, the circle is complete … and begins again.

Continuous improvement also is necessary for existing products to continue to meet customer expectations or the product sales potential is diminished.

Technologically advanced products–such as the panasonic clean air system vacs, with better filtration, quietness and durability–have potential for extended customer appeal.

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